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Pine returns to the mill, but its purpose is more humble

Strange to see ponderosa logs decked again at the Ellingson mill site.

Strange in a good way.

These trees, it’s true, aren’t destined for quite so noble a purpose as were the pines they used to stack on the property. Some of those logs were as thick through the middle as a bridge abutment.

The comparatively slender trees that trucks deliver to the mill these days, rather than becoming permanent parts of someone’s home will temporarily warm a room on a bitter day.

With the First Amendment, America’s already pretty fair

Politicians in Washington, D.C., have been saying some scary things of late.

They often do this, of course.

Yet recent rhetoric seems to me especially troubling because one of the words in fashion is “fairness.”

Besides, say, “taxes,” I can’t think of any word I would less like to hear from the larynxes of lawmakers.

Rooting for America rather than against its politicians

I hope the stimulus plan President Obama signed into law this week revives the American economy from its current bout of narcolepsy. And if it does, I won’t be bothered a whit when President Obama and the Democrats in Congress lay claim to the credit.

I understand this position brands me as unreliable, and possibly even a a traitor, in certain political circles.

Some conservative commentators — radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is the most prominent of them — are rooting for Obama to fail.

Impersonating Elvis, wearing panty hose, and other joys of live theater

It’s every amateur actor’s nightmare.

You come on stage during opening night when you’re not scheduled to, spouting lines you’re not supposed to say until later in Act II.

And you’re not even wearing that sassy black dress that the nice wardrobe chief let out so it’ll fit your less-than-feminine physique.

That was the gist of my big gaffe last Friday, when Eastern Oregon Regional Theater’s “Any Body Home?” opened its two-weekend run at the Extension Building in Baker City.

Celebrating Oregon the best way I know — smelling the pine

We drove down the middle fork of the John Day on Sunday, searching for a snow-free hike and the early buttercup.

We found mud, mainly.

And although there were no buttercups in evidence we did see a few sprigs of that other yellow bellwether, desert parsley, its bright new blossoms about the size of a nickel.

We left the parsley.

Democrats’ plan not healthy for Oregon

Many Americans start the New Year with renewed efforts to count calories and leave behind the excesses of the holiday season. 

But Governor Kulongoski and Democrat leaders seem to think now is the time to add inches to government’s waist line. In the spirit of the holidays, Democrats are convinced that government spending financed by a borrowing binge is the key to economic recovery.

They are wrong.

The prescription for Oregon’s ailing economy is not a spending spree, but an aggressive plan to trim the fat — to shed excessive government spending and commit to a leaner, healthier, sustainable lifestyle where jobs and family businesses can thrive.

Important parts of Oregon's history still waiting to be dug up

Oregon is putting a lot of effort this year into touting its past, which seems to me logical since we’re hardly overwhelmed with events to celebrate here in the present.

And if you believe what you hear we’re not likely to be burdened with such in the near future.

The real reason for the revelry, of course, is that Oregon turns 150 this year — on Valentine’s Day, to be specific.

State government’s playing it both ways

Oregon’s government, I’d wager, has more in common with Las Vegas than most Oregonians realize.

Salem lacks a neon-studded Strip, of course.

And so far as I know Wayne Newton hasn’t played the State Fair since, well, forever.

But if you get on the e-mail list for various state agencies, as I have, you come to understand pretty quickly that working for certain of those agencies, and running a casino, are not such dissimilar careers as you probably supposed.

Although state workers aren’t likely to see Siegfried standing by the water cooler.

Or Roy.

Waylaid again by those garden catalogs

Along about the middle of December they begin barging in, mocking the snow and upsetting the tranquility of our winter household.

Garden catalogs.

These thin pamphlets, crammed with glossy color photos of plants that are almost obscenely healthy, can distract me for as long as an hour from more worthwhile pursuits, such as napping or watching football.

After even a brief bit of browsing I can become overwhelmed by the compulsion to go dig a hole and plant a hybrid poplar, or perhaps a paper birch. That such a task is impractical — even if I scraped away the snow the frozen ground would be no more receptive to a shovel blade than asphalt — seems not to matter.

The photographs alone, showing trees in full leaf against backdrops of blue sky, affect me much as a balmy afternoon in March does. I can feel the  warmth of sunshine bathing my neck, the soft grit of fecund soil clinging to my fingers.

But the writing is powerful, too, in spite of its flowery tone and over-reliance on adjectives and exclamation points.

My natural skepticism, which is usually quite keen when it comes to detecting, and dismissing, outlandish claims that come by mail, dissolves when I read about the clever tricks the horticulturists have been up to with their gene-splicing and grafting.

No one asked, but I’ve got a suggestion for that stimulus package

The federal government is getting ready to write another 12-digit check, ostensibly to benefit the taxpayers. Which is to say you and me, who will of course subsidize this endeavor whether we brand it as brilliance or folly. If I were a shopkeeper I’m not sure I’d accept this as legal tender, though, even if the feds can produce two pieces of ID.

So far as I can tell the account lacks overdraft protection. It certainly hasn’t any taxpayer protection, and yet I’m certain the creditors, in a pinch, will be able to acquire our addresses as readily as the IRS can.

I suppose I ought to feel thankful that the people we elected have decided it’s time to return to us, in some fashion, a portion of the money they’ve taken. But I can’t muster much gratitude.

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